Friday, April 14, 2006

The Churchill Series – Apr 14, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Churchill quite often delayed leaving for the train station. Early in speaking out against communism and fascism, where trains were concerned he was a classic "last minute" traveler.

When he was a cabinet minister or PM, and later when out of office but "a great man," Churchill's delays didn't cause him any problems. Staff simply phoned ahead and the train was held; no need to race.

But when out of office, Churchill frequently had to race to catch a train. Often he lost.

Clementine once explained Churchill's "last minute" habit this way: "Winston's a sporting man. He likes to give the train a chance."
Tom Hickman,
Churchill's Bodyguard. (p. 130)

Duke and Durham don't deserve Al Sharpton

Today's Durham Herald Sun reports:

The Rev. Al Sharpton, the New York City-based civil-rights activist, may visit Durham in the next few days to speak out on allegations that a black woman was raped last month by members of Duke University's lacrosse team.

As of Thursday afternoon, Sharpton hadn't scheduled a visit. But he had been invited to make the trip by "local community members and pastors," said Rachel Noerdlinger, the minister's spokeswoman.

Noerdlinger said Sharpton's travel plans "are just being shaped" and that the proposed trip to Durham was "under strong consideration."

It was not clear Thursday who in Durham has asked Sharpton to consider the trip south. …

One activist, the Rev. Carl Kenney, said he'd placed a call to Sharpton and would urge the minister to stay out of the situation for now.
The H-S said Durham’s Mayor, Bill Bell, “voiced skepticism” about a possible Sharpton visit:
"What would be the purpose of his visit?" the mayor said. "But it's a free country. People can go where they want to go, if they've got the means to get there."
Bell has repeatedly urged calm and encouraged everyone to let the investigation and any legal proceedings take their course.

Sharpton has some Duke and Durham admires. One, activist Bill Cherry, is quoted in The H-S story :
”(Sharpton’s) a great person, and he's not out there seeking fame and fortune," Cherry said. "Same with Jesse. These guys move around the country trying to put out fires, not start them. Since it's [already in] the national spotlight, they come in and talk about it and try to calm folk down."
Put out fires? Calm folk?

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has done what few journalists seem willing to do: remind us of Sharpton’s career. Jacoby calls it "at least as vile as David Duke’s." Here’s some of Jacoby’s reminding:
1987: Sharpton spreads the incendiary Tawana Brawley hoax, insisting heatedly that a 15-year-old black girl was abducted, raped, and smeared with feces by a group of white men. He singles out Steve Pagones, a young prosecutor. Pagones is wholly innocent -- the crime never occurred -- but Sharpton taunts him: "If we're lying, sue us, so we can . . . prove you did it."

Pagones does sue, and eventually wins a $345,000 verdict for defamation. To this day, Sharpton refuses to recant his unspeakable slander or to apologize for his role in the odious affair.

1991: A Hasidic Jewish driver in Brooklyn's Crown Heights section accidentally kills Gavin Cato, a 7-year-old black child, and antisemitic riots erupt. Sharpton races to pour gasoline on the fire. At Gavin's funeral he rails against the "diamond merchants" -- code for Jews -- with "the blood of innocent babies" on their hands.

He mobilizes hundreds of demonstrators to march through the Jewish neighborhood, chanting, "No justice, no peace." A rabbinical student, Yankel Rosenbaum, is surrounded by a mob shouting "Kill the Jews!" and stabbed to death.

1995: When the United House of Prayer, a large black landlord in Harlem, raises the rent on Freddy's Fashion Mart, Freddy's white Jewish owner is forced to raise the rent on his subtenant, a black-owned music store.

A landlord-tenant dispute ensues; Sharpton uses it to incite racial hatred. "We will not stand by," he warns malignantly, "and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business."

Sharpton's National Action Network sets up picket lines; customers going into Freddy's are spat on and cursed as "traitors" and "Uncle Toms." Some protesters shout, "Burn down the Jew store!" and simulate striking a match. "We're going to see that this cracker suffers," says Sharpton's colleague Morris Powell.

On Dec. 8, one of the protesters bursts into Freddy's, shoots four employees point-blank, then sets the store on fire. Seven employees die in the inferno.

If Sharpton were a white skinhead, he would be a political leper, spurned everywhere but the fringe.

But far from being spurned, he is shown much deference. Democrats embrace him. Politicians court him. And journalists report on his comings and goings while politely sidestepping his career as a hatemongering racial hustler
Those horrific events are part of Shapton's long, odious career. I'd add shameful but Sharpton and his supporters and apologists don't know the meaning of that word.

Duke and Durham don’t deserve Al Sharpton.

You can read Jacoby’s column here and another he’s written on Sharpton’s career here.

Trackback: Just One Minute, Signifying Nothing.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Churchill Series – Apr 13, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

On July 18, 1919 Churchill, Secretary of State for War and Air, completed his day’s work at the ministry and then went to Croydon airfield on the edge of London for another flying lesson. He traveled with a WW I air ace, Colonel Jack Scott, his flying instructor. After the lesson Churchill was scheduled to return to Parliament where he would host a dinner in honor of General John J. Pershing, Commander of the American Expeditionary Force.

Clementine and many friends had been urging Churchill to stop taking flying lessons. Piloting was a risky business in those days; already Churchill had had a number of close calls. But he was determined to earn his license and conquer a fear of flying.

Once at Croydon, Churchill and Scott climbed into a plane with dual controls. Churchill’s biographer, Martin Gilbert, tells us what happened next:

Churchill took the machine off the ground himself, but when he had risen to seventy or eight feet the aeroplane began to lose speed, and to fall.

Scott took over the controls but could do nothing. “We were scarcely ninety foot above the ground above the ground,” Churchill later recalled, “just the normal height for the usual side-slip fatal accident, the commonest of all”

The aeroplane fell swiftly downward. “I saw the sunlit aerodrome close beneath me, and the impression flashed through my mind that is was bathed in a baleful yellowish glare. Then in another flash a definite thought formed in my brain, 'this is very likely Death.'"…

The aeroplane struck the ground. Churchill was thrown forward but his safety belt held him: it broke only when the force of the crash was over. Streams of petrol vapour rushed past him from the engine, but in the few seconds before the aeroplane hit the ground, Scott had managed to switch off the engine, preventing an explosion.

Churchill was safe but bruised. Scott, knocked unconscious, soon recovered.
Gilbert later tells us
Although (Churchill) would never obtains a pilot’s license, Clementine would have peace of mind.
In time Churchill conquered his fear of flying, even reaching a point where he would often sleep for hours during long flights.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life. (pgs. 412-414)

Is The Duke Rape Story Unraveling?

That’s the question Tom Bevan, Executive Editor at RealClearPolitics asked Tuesday. A sharp analyst, Bevan picked up on something I hadn’t noticed or heard anyone else mention. Here it is:

There's probably no better way to get a feel for what's been happening in the Duke University lacrosse team rape story than to read a series of revised news alerts on the case issued by the Durham Police's Crimestoppers unit.

An initial release sent out April 3 which offered cash rewards for tips about the case read: "The victim was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed. This horrific crime sent shock waves throughout our community."

Yesterday (Monday-JinC) at 11:16am, according to the Raleigh News & Observer, Crimestoppers issued a revised version of the same news release which dropped the entire second sentence about a "horrific crime" and also added a qualifier to the first: "The victim alleges that she was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed." [emphasis added]

A mere eighteen minutes later a third revision was issued, changing the word "victim" to "complainant."

The evolving facts in the case seem to not only warrant those revisions but also to suggest that the case may be in the process of unraveling.
Now tonight, Thursday, the Associated Press is reports:
A woman who claims she was raped by members of Duke University's lacrosse team was described as "just passed-out drunk" by one of the first police officers to see her, according to a recording of radio traffic released Thursday.

The conversation between the officer and a police dispatcher took place about 1:30 a.m. March 14, about five minutes after a grocery store security guard called 911 to report a woman in the parking lot who would not get out of someone else's car.

The officer gave the dispatcher the police code for an intoxicated person. When asked whether the woman needed medical help, the officer said: "She's breathing and appears to be fine. She's not in distress. She's just passed out drunk."
Interesting times, yes?

And then there are all those questions about lack of IDs more than four weeks after the alleged attack.

And once we get them answered, we can move on and ask about Kim, the second dancer. What has she said, if anything?

This weekend I plan to work on an “events so far with time line” document. I hope to have it ready by Monday.

Responding mostly to JinC commenters


The post title says "mostly" because anyone in the blogosphere can "walk in" here at any time. In most circumstances, they're always welcome.

That said, this post is really intended for almost everyone who has been commenting at JinC these past few weeks. I have JinC regulars especially in mind.

I only exclude from what I'm about to say a very few whose comments here were --- I'll just leave it at that.

Now on -

I tip my hat to all of you.

Your comments have been well-stated, reasonable and informed. They've added to this blog and helped me in what is for many of us here in Durham a defining time.

Your comments have often reminded me of things I should have paid more attention to. You've shared information I didn't have. You've made civil criticisms of each other.

I see some of you are starting to comment at N&O blogs. Right on. The paper needs the kind of help you can give it.

But, hey, I'm going to stop with the praise.

At some blogs you can put up pictures of your dog and the blogger gives you huge praise for being:

"the greatest group of people. You're all my dearest friends. And don't miss tomorrow's post. I'll give you a full account of Bobo's graduation. Pictures, too (I seem to be in the center of all of them. Well, whatever.)"
But not at JinC. And you don't come here for piffle.

In fact, if I did much gushing, you wouldn't be here at all, would you?

I don't like the thought of that, so I'll move on.

I need to be very careful with my next comment because I'm going to single out one commenter.

When a blogger does that it often upsets trolls who hang out at blogs and seem to hate it when other people get attention. About a month ago I turned a reader's comment into a post and a troll appeared and started flaming the reader.

But I think I can take the risk now because the person is a critic. He calls himself Cracker. He objected to my use of the word "prosecutorial" when describing The N&O's handling of the Duke lacrosse.

I have no trouble respecting Cracker's criticism. Perhaps I should have done more to make the case. I plan to do some of that this weekend.

Meanwhile, I hope Cracker is reading this. I'll say to him that I'll have a post with links soon but meanwhile I hope he considers the following: All with reference to The N&O: Please take a look at Ruth Sheehan's columns. Citizens have rights to remain silent; prosecutors badger and sometimes threaten in various ways citizens to waive their rights. They must necessarily make prejudgments.

Sheehan has done all of that. But she didn't have too. She's a journalist, after all.

Which newspaper was the first to print priors? Who's twice run photos of the infamous "wanted" posters? Isn't that all stuff prosecutors do?

For weeks The N&O told us how important DNA evidence is. No question the players must all submit to DNA testing.

Than the results came back. Things changed at The N&O

We've since gotten two stories telling us DNA really isn't all that relevent.

That's how many prosecutors treat evidence. Try to collect anything they think will help the case and than if it goes against them talk it down.

Did you read Sunday's "Swagger" story? The "they should be in jail now" crowd loved it. Most other people who read it saw it as an agenda driven hit piece.

Cracker, what did you think of it?

Also, along with The N&O have you been reading The Durham Herald Sun and visiting the blog Signifying Nothing?

You say you've been speaking out for fairness for the players. Good for you. Not enough people are doing that.

And please keep visiting and commenting.

Moving on.

Some of you complain about "comments" on the thread that are just spam.

I'm sorry about that. I try to remove them but I miss some.

There's been a pickup in spam here because I'm gradually getting more links from heavy traffic bloggers. Whenever I do my traffic count "jumps" and spammers have programs that notice that and direct spam to such a blog.

Today, for instance, linked to yesterday's Nifong post. Look for plenty of spam in the next few days.

I'm going to end now. I've enjoyed doing this post and may do something like it again soon.

One last think. I'm working on a special Churchill post concerning an incident which has some remarkable parallels to what we are seeing in Durham now.

At group of Sandhurst cadets and three employees in a barracks section were dismissed when none of them came forward and disclosed who had set some fires at the school. They were all denied presumption of innocence and due process.

Churchill was at the time a young member of Parliament. I'll bet you can guess how he reacted. You're right.

The episode had a good outcome in the sense that as many wrongs as possible were later righted. Churchill saw to it that they were.

I'll have it up in a day or two.

Every good thing to all of you.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Churchill Series - Arp 12, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

On April 9, 1963 Churchill, then eighty-nine, was made an honorary citizen of the United States of America. The award was presented by President John F. Kennedy at a White House ceremony.

Churchill was unable to attend because of health but he watch the ceremony from via what was in those days an unusual means: a live satellite feed.

Churchill was represented at the ceremony be his son, Randolph, and his grandson who bears his name.

This link will take you to a page at the Churchill Centre where you can read the grant of citizenship, President Kennedy's remarks, and a response by Churchill which Randolph read.

Together, the three documents remind us of what is best in humanity and the English speaking nations.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Duke lacrosse rape ID questions for DA Nifong

Yesterday, four weeks after a woman alleged she was gang raped by three members of the Duke lacrosse team, Durham DA Mike Nifong for the first time said she’s identified one of her attackers. Or did he?

Today's Raleigh News & Observer headlined: "Nifong cites attacker ID, says more tests pending in lacrosse case."

The N&O reported:

At a forum at N.C. Central University on violence against women, Nifong told more than 400 people that the woman who reported being raped, sodomized and choked by three men at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. identified at least one of her attackers a week ago.
The N&O didn’t quote Nifong.

Today’s Durham Herald Sun, reporting on the same forum, headlined: "Nifong hints victim ID'ed player."

The H-S reported:
At least one Duke lacrosse player has been identified as a suspect in the alleged gang rape of an exotic dancer last month, District Attorney Mike Nifong said Tuesday, and he suggested that the victim herself made the identification.
The H-S went on to quote Nifong:
"Anytime that you have a victim who can identify her assailant, then what you have is a case that a judge would let go to the jury. Which means that in this situation I would expect that a jury would get to evaluate the evidence."
The district attorney was serving as a forum panelist when he made his announcement as part of his response to a question from an audience member.

Did Nifong say the woman has identified one of her attackers, as The N&O reports, or is that uncertain, as The H-S reports, referring later in its story to a “purported identification?”

About 4 PM today I spoke with people at both papers connected with their paper’s stories. Both papers are standing by their stories as reported. An editor at The H-S added that journalists there have listened to a tape of the forum and are satisfied The H-S quoted Nifong accurately.

People at both papers said Nifong was not available for questions after the forum and has not responded to their calls and questions since.

Nifong could clear up any ambiguity regarding what he said with a brief press release.

He needs to do that, but it will still leave unanswered concerns and questions people have about what he said and did yesterday and his silence since.

I've talked with two attorneys who are not representing any of the Duke lacrosse players. Both were surprised Nifong didn’t do as is customary and inform the attorney representing the individual purportedly identified.

They were very critical of Nifong for making his announcement at a public forum on the campus of the historically black NCCU, which the woman attends. The woman, who is black, says her alleged attackers are white.

“Something this important you expect a DA to announce at a called press conference at his office,” one attorney said. "With Nifong involved in an election campaign, and the case having such a racial overtone, I think he showed very poor judgment."

The attorneys questioned why Nifong didn’t read his announcement from a prepared written statement that could then be distributed to media and others.

Nifong’s announcement and his silence since has raised questions in my mind. Here are a few of them:

The woman has alleged there were three attackers. Nifong refers to an ID of only one alleged attacker. What about the other two?

Can the woman only identify one attacker?

How and when was the ID made?

And why, after making his ID statement, has Nifong now thrown up a wall of silence?
News story URLs:

Editor rejects criticism for “Shame on Duke” story

The Raleigh News & Observer continues to receive criticism for what many see as its sensationalist and prosecutorial reporting of the Duke lacrosse rape allegation. The N&O disputes its critics, who include its own public editor.

Let’s look at an interesting example of how The N&O is responding to its critics.

Yesterday at exec editor for news Melanie Sill’s blog, a reader said no one has yet been charged with any crime but that hasn’t stopped The N&O:

“from fanning the flames of racism and economic envy. And it doesn't stop you from refusing to answer legitimate questions with legitimate on point answers. Not ‘Shame on Duke!’ Shame on you!”
“Shame on Duke” is a reference to a subhead in a front page, above the fold Apr 2 N&O story, “Incident imperils Dukes’ image.” (Paid subscription required)

The reader's comment echoes the criticism of many that the lengthy story was an agenda driven hit piece targeting Duke.

The critics note, for example, the story described alumni as "hurt and angry about what they say has, so far, been a disgraceful episode for the university," while failing to mention that many, if not most, alumni support all or most of what the university has done. The story quoted only alumni critical of Duke, including one it had used a few days before for another critical quote.

The reader's comment drew a swift response from Sill, who feels the story was very well done:
”I don't think our news coverage in any instance has said shame on anyone.”
I decided to respond to that with a comment at Sill's blog:

You say: “I don't think our news coverage in any instance has said shame on anyone."

In your Apr 2 front page story people are referring to we find this:

"Shame on Duke!' (You put it in bold between paragraphs 18 and 19. You put plenty of white space around it; all the better to help readers understand what The N&O wants them to think and feel)

You immediately followed that with:

With protests aimed at Duke and the lacrosse team almost daily last week, the tension in Durham has been palpable. Residents created their own electronic bulletin board called "DurhamResponds," reacting to each twist and turn of the story and dissecting the comments of Duke leaders.

On a poster taped to a tree outside Brodhead's office, an "ex-Dukie" wrote: "To many for whom Durham is really home, Duke's silence following what the men's lacrosse team did is just the latest sad chapter in Duke-Durham relations. Shame on Duke!"

Aja Thompson, a Duke senior from Atlanta, felt compelled to protest on campus. "I am ashamed and I am embarrassed to be a Duke student," she said, "especially as a black woman."

Melanie, a friend who's visiting and reads The N&O just looked at your comment and mine and said, 'Who's surprised?

Less than an hour after I left the comment, Sill responded with this:

"Shame on Duke!" is a quote from the poster, as you note, not a statement from The N&O. This is a pretty common technique in newspapers, magazines and other publications, using quotes from stories as headlines or subheadlines to draw people into the stories. I'm not surprised by your barrage of criticism, which is a staple of this blog, but again ask you to try not to write such long posts.
Folks, I'll bet we all know newspapers use headlines and subheads to convey what they think are the most important parts of their news stories.

How does Sill’s statement, ”I don't think our news coverage in any instance has said shame on anyone,” square with The N&O’s use of the “Shame on Duke!” subhead?

Then there’s the matter of the paragraphs that followed. Sill didn’t mention them in her response to me.

After reading and thinking about Sill's response, I decided to send her a comment which follows. If you’re a JinC regular, you know the reference to Barry Saunders relates to a news column he’d written on Apr 1. Sill tells readers N&O news columnists are held to the same standards of factualness as its news reporters. I’ve asked Sill for days to comment on Saunders' reporting. But so far I’ve encountered only a "wall of silence."

If people look at my comment above, they'll see it's mostly verbatim paragraphs taken from The N&O's news columns.

And, yes, those paragraphs are a barrage of criticism: produced by The N&O and fired at Duke University.

You still haven't responded to this:

"Melanie, you've told us in the past that N&O news columnists must meet the same standard for factualness as N&O news reporters.

News columnist Barry Saunders recently wrote:

"If Duke could pack up and move, it would, eager to escape Durham's reputation as a cesspool of civic incompetence.

Likewise, if Durham could bid Duke 'adieu,'it would."

Can we agree, Melanie, that Saunders meets The N&O’s reporting standards?

How about answering the question?

BTW – I agree this blog needs a preview option.


There are people at The N&O who are critical of its reporting including, as I mentioned above, its public editor. But they don't seem able to do anything to stop what Melanie Sill calls The N&O's "fair and accurate" reporting.

Sill, by the way, devoted her most recent column, "Facts a casualty of frenzy," to criticism of national news organizations' reporting of the story. Without citing any examples, she called their reporting "seamy and sensationalist." She said she wished they would get off the story and go somewhere else.

And so it goes at The N&O.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Churchill Series – Apr 11, 2006

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Churchill’s official biographer, Martin Gilbert, reflects one of the most important aspects of Churchill’s war leadership:

From the outset of the fighting , when he was First Lord of the Admiralty and a member of Chamberlain’s War Cabinet, he was able to convey to the British public something they overwhelmingly felt within themselves: that it was a just war, a war being fought against evil.

Even earlier, at the height of the pre-war debate abut whether Nazi Germany could, or should, be appeased, Churchill had understood, and conveyed, that what was at stake was the survival of humane values. “War is terrible, “ he had written on 7 January 1939, “but slavery is worse.”

From the first months of Nazi rule in Germany, Churchill has spoken out in the House of Commons against the racism of the new regime and the cruel nature of Nazi anti-Semitism. He had argued in 1938 that any appeasement of Germany was a sign not only of British military weakness but also of moral weakness, and that, sooner or later – “and most probably sooner” – both would have to be redressed, since the object of appeasement – to satisfy Hitler by acceding to his territorial demands – would only encourage more and more demands.
Tomorrow night I’ll have a special post in recognition of America’s grant of citizenship to Churchill. I hope you come back then.
Martin Gilbert, Continue to Pester, Nag and Bite. (pg. 39-40)

Visit Melanie Sill's blog. And where is Ruth Sheehan's blog?


I'm in a rush but will post plenty this evening.

Meanwhile, make a visit to N&O exec news editor Melanie Sill's blog. Read her post, Lacrosse team: Beyond the rape claim. Then read the comment thread. One of our JinC regulars, Locomotive Breath, has a comment there. It's tops.

I've got a few too.

Here's one of them below. You may recall Sheehan early on wrote two column's attacking the lacrosse team.

More tonight.

Comment from: John [Visitor] ·
04/11/06 at 11:49

I've been getting emails saying news columnist Ruth Sheehan's blog has disappeared.

So I searched for it just now.

I can't find it either.

What's happening?


Monday, April 10, 2006

The Churchill Series - Apr. 10, 2006


I'm sorry there's no Churchill post today.

I've spent a lot of time on the Duke lacrosse rape allegation story.

I'll have a post Tuesday, Apr. 11.

Thank you for your understanding.


The Duke lacrosse case: Time for a name change?

No DNA matches!

Not a single member of the Duke University Men's lacrosse team matched by DNA to the alleged rape victim.

Can you believe that?

Can you believe that after all Durham's DA, Mike Nifong, and the "they should be in jail now" crowd told you?

There wasn't even a DNA match with those false fingernails the accuser said she lost while fighting off three white male lacrosse team members she claimed raped and strangled her.

In a day or two I'll say more about how much, during the past few weeks, I've appreciated JinC commentators who, almost without exception, stood by the "innocent until proven guilty" standard.

Right now, with those DNA results public, we can all ask: "Would any DA in these circumstances go any further in prosecuting one, some or all of the lacrosse players? "

Well, maybe you wouldn't, but tonight the "word on the street" is that tomorrow morning Nifong will announce he'll continue to push for rape convictions.

That said, I need to tell you that as of 11:30 PM Eastern tonight, there's still "no word on the street" about which, if any, member or members of the lacrosse team Nifong plans to charge.

I'll report and comment tomorrow, Tuesday, on what Nifong says and does.

Meanwhile two questions:

Should we keep referring to "the Duke lacrosse rape story?"

Shouldn't we now be referring to the "Mike Nifong rape case story?"

What do you think?

To Harry Taylor: You damaged America’s fabric

When President Bush took questions from an audience in Charlotte, NC last week, Harry Taylor saw an opportunity.

You’ve probably heard about him. He’s the guy who stood up and said to the President (as reported by the Raleigh N&O):

"While I listen to you talk about freedom," said Harry Taylor, 61, a commercial real estate broker, "I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food ..."
Bush broke in with a quip: "I'm not your favorite guy. Go on, what's your question?"

Taylor then said he "never felt more ashamed of, nor frightened by, my leadership in Washington, including the presidency."
Funny, Taylor doesn’t sound ashamed or frightened. He sounds pompous, self-indulgent, self-righteous, and attention seeking. The kind of guy who saw his opportunity to seize, if only for a few minutes, the national spotlight and receive the attention he’s sure he’s due.
The kind of guy who granted media interviews after the event.

Frightened of the government, Mr. Taylor?

That’s not true. You wouldn’t be preening before the cameras’ if you were. You’d be hiding somewhere.

Stop being disingenuous!

And stop tearing at the fabric of America. A president should be able to come to a community and be welcomed as a matter of civility; and in recognition by all thoughtful citizens that he holds one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

In the twentieth century two presidents were assassinated, two were seriously wounded by gun fire, and one was fired on but the bullet missed him and killed the man sitting next to him.

There were also a number of other assassination attempts on presidents that didn’t result in death or injury to them.

Mr. Taylor, why help create a climate of hostility around the President?

Why push Bush-bashing further toward the edge?

Aren’t you concerned some unstable person will say “Mr. Taylor’s right! But he didn't go far enough. Now I’ll remove that shaming and frightening threat to the country.”

It isn’t like you don’t have many opportunities to express you opinions in more constructive ways.

Think about it.

Are Republicans flirting with disaster?

The WSJ’s John Fund has one of the sharpest political minds around. I rank him with Michael Barone.

Today Fund tells WSJ readers: yes, Republicans are flirting with a possible disaster come this November’s congressional elections. Let’s look at some of what Fund says:

Democrats must be pinching themselves about their good fortune. Last week, the Republican Congress saw deals on budget reform, immigration reform and extending the Bush tax cuts all collapse within 24 hours.

House and Senate members went home empty-handed to face an increasingly surly electorate, nearly 70% of which now thinks the country is heading in the wrong direction. Both parties are viewed negatively by voters, but it's Republicans who are in charge and stand to lose the most in November elections. Some GOP strategists are making comparisons to how the Democrats appeared to come unglued just prior to their losing Congress in 1994.

Take the budget. The conservative base is furious over the complete failure of both President Bush and the GOP Congress to exercise spending restraint in areas that have nothing to do with defense of homeland security.

On Friday Mr. Bush took the unusual step of challenging his party's congressional leaders. "If necessary, I will enforce spending restraint through the exercise of the veto," he told reporters. Sounds good, but in over five years Mr. Bush has never vetoed a bill. Few take his threats finally to do so now all that seriously. …
Fund cites instance after instance pork barrel budget items, policy disagreements and home district concerns have divided congressional Republicans. He compares the current fix Republicans are in to the situation Democrats faced just months before their election disaster in ’94.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the GOP majority is losing its team spirit, and many in Congress are going their own way as they eye a tough re-election climate.

Back in 1994, that kind of behavior over a crime bill that failed to garner enough Democratic votes to pass on the floor was an early indicator that Democrats were in serious political trouble. They wound up losing control of both houses of Congress that year.

No one quite expects a tsunami of those proportions this year. Incumbent-protection devices and gerrymandered districts are likely to minimize GOP losses. But Republican strategists are now openly talking about the parallels between 1994 and 2006. "Democrats had the health-care debacle; we have our base demoralized on spending," says a top GOP strategist who was intimately involved in promoting the Contract with America. "Democrats had corruption issues.

Both parties now have them, but it's the GOP that's getting the headlines. And finally, hatred of Bush on the left is at least as intense as hatred of Clinton was on the right in 1994."

In both years, the economy was in decent shape, but that didn't prevent many disillusioned voters of the party in power from staying home. "My firm conviction is that Republicans are going to show up at a lower rate" this November, Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, told Investor's Business Daily. …
Fund ends with a warning for Republicans
Unless they change course dramatically in the seven months between now and Election Day, they may well find themselves facing the same fate as the Democratic political dinosaurs of that year that they replaced.
When Fund speaks people should listen, especially if they’re congressional Republicans anxious to avoid disaster. There’s still seven months until November.

You can read Fund's column here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Local editor wants national media to leave Duke, Durham

Melanie Sill, The Raleigh News & Observer’s executive editor for news, is very dissatisfied with national media coverage of the story involving a charge of rape leveled against some members of the Duke University’s Men’s lacrosse team.

Sill says it's been “superficial and focused on the case’s seamy aspects.” But her own paper's coverage has been just fine. It might even improve if the national media leave town.

In her column today, Sill tells readers:

Reporting on the story might even improve if the national TV trucks packed up and left and the throngs dissipated.

No knock on my colleagues, but there has to be some other news out there worth covering.
Sill asks “why, beyond sensationalism, would headlines on the case's lurid details play on TV screens and newspapers for days all over the country?”

For her answer, Sill turns to The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s 2006 State of the Media report which said more news organizations are covering fewer stories.

Sill buys that explanation for the lousy reporting we’ve all been subjected to. Her column is titled “Facts a casualty of frenzy” and she tells readers:
With crowds of journalists and paparazzi gathering, the report said, authorities quickly shut down interviews or turn to press briefings. You can't achieve any depth of reporting at a press briefing.

We've seen this here already. District Attorney Mike Nifong, the only person who can explain his office's decisions on the case, cut off interviews early last week, blaming an overload of requests.
There's more. Be sure to read the whole thing.

A few thoughts –

Sill doesn’t cite any specific examples of the coverage she complaining about. I wish she had. As someone who must read The N&O regularly, I’d love to know what Sill considers seamy and sensationalist.

The national news organizations have cartainly done a lot of lousy reporting but so have some local news organizations.

And among local news organizations, Sill’s N&O stands out for its biased and inflammatory coverage. Earlier today I posted on some of it here.

A lot of people think the best local reporting has come from The Durham Herald Sun. I agree.

There’s a slew of local blogs. The one I’m going to the most is Signifying Nothing. (A humble blogger maybe? Can't be. There aren't any such.)

The SN's blogger, Chris Lawrence, is a visiting professor at Duke. He’s stayed on top of things. He seems fair. He often has items other sources miss.

Give him a look and tell me what you think.

More on Sill’s column tomorrow. Lots more.

Raleigh N&O Duke/Durham rape charge reporting is biased and inflammatory

Correction: The following post says the N&O published the "Vigilante" poster twice. In fact, it published it once. I apologize for my error.



Raleigh News & Observer exec editor Melanie Sill has been praising The N&O's coverage of the story involving allegations of rape leveled against some members of the Duke University lacrosse team.

Today I left the following comment on the thread at her blog post. You ought to go there because the comments are very, very informative. I'm not the first John you see. I believe he's an attorney. I'm further down the thread.

At Melanie's blog I can't hyperlink so where you see hyperlinks here, there are URLs there. Otherwise, nothing was changed.


Regarding The N&O’s converge of the rape allegation directed at some members of the Duke lacrosse team:

Last Sunday ,Apr 2, The N&O ran a lengthy. front-page story with a theme involving the university’s “shame.” (You even used the subhead: ‘Shame on Duke!’)

The N&O said: “Many Duke alumni are hurt and angry about what they say has, so far, been a disgraceful episode for the university”

You quoted 3 Duke alums. They all supported your theme. One, Malbert Smith, you’d quoted just a few days before.

Your “fair and accurate” newspaper didn't quote a single alum who supports the university.

But you could have if you wanted to.

There are thousands of Duke alum who are proud of the university for many reasons, including its refusal to cave in the face of outrageous attacks by The N&O and people like Professor Baker.

When Baker, in an open letter, condemned Duke for, among other things, engaging in what he called “timorous piety and sentimental legalism” most alums knew he was talking about due process and presumption of innocence.

In your reporting on Baker’s letter you didn’t tell readers it includes statements such as: “this white, male athletic team's racist assaults.”

You don’t tell readers Baker said such things as: “in a forthrightly ethical setting with an avowed commitment to life-enhancing citizenship, such a violent and irresponsible group would scarcely be spirited away, or sheltered.”

In an Apr 5 story The N&O reported: “Duke Provost Peter Lange said in a letter that he was 'disappointed, saddened and appalled' by an outspoken letter Baker wrote the Duke administration last week.”

The N&O makes it seem Lange characterized Baker's letter as “outspoken” when in truth Lange called it a “form of prejudice.”

Readers can find both letters here.

I urge readers who haven’t prejudged anyone guilty to read the letters; and then go back and look at how The N&O reported on them in this story.

Melanie, you've told us in the past that N&O news columnists must meet the same standard for factualness as N&O news reporters.

News columnist Barry Saunders recently wrote:

"If Duke could pack up and move, it would, eager to escape Durham's reputation as a cesspool of civic incompetence.

Likewise, if Durham could bid Duke 'adieu,'it would."
Can we agree, Melanie, that Saunders meets The N&O’s reporting standards?

Almost four weeks after the attack is alleged to have occurred, there's apparently been no positive identification of any individual player on the team through use of police lineups or face-photos such as were used for the "vigilante poster" The N&O’s published at least twice.

Has The N&O reported why it seems there's been no positive identification by the alleged victim of a single team member ?

Has The N&O asked the DA about that? Did you ask the alleged victim about positive identifications when she granted you an interview?

On Apr. 5 NC Central University Chancellor James Ammons issued a statement to the “NCCU family.” It is a very important part of a story about which you say The N&O has “pushed hard.”

But I don’t recall seeing anything in The N&O about the Chancellor’s statement; and a few minutes ago I couldn’t find anything in your archives. Did you ignore his statement?

I hope not. It’s calm, wise, and very newsworthy. The Durham Herald Sun published it in full. You can take a look at it here.

Ammons’ statement is a welcome contrast to the inflammatory prejudgments of The N&O and Professor Baker.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Note: I’m signing because there are other John’s commenting here.

Duke lacrosse rape allegation: Important questions

Today’s Durham Herald Sun's report on the Duke lacrosse rape allegation includes this:

District Attorney Mike Nifong had said he expected to obtain the DNA test results from State Bureau of Investigation technicians last week, but they were not available by the close of business on Friday.

Nifong told reporters he believed such testing would confirm the exotic dancer's version of events. But he also said he might be able to pursue criminal charges even if there were no DNA matches, especially if the dancer was able to identify her assailants. (bold added - JinC)

However, Nifong declined to reveal whether an identification actually was made.
"(I)f the dancer was able to identify her assailants."

That sounds like there hasn't been a police lineup. Or, that if there was a lineup, she couldn't make positive identifications.

Was there a lineup? And if there was, what was the outcome?

If there's been no lineup, why not?

The alleged attack is said to have occurred the night Mar 13. That's almost four weeks ago.

Has there been any effort to make positive IDs from face-photos? If yes, DA Nifong's statement would indicate the woman wasn't able to make any positive IDs.

If there's been no effort to make any face-photo positive identifications, why not?

Individual face-photos of all the white lacrosse players (the woman says all her attackers were white)are easily obtained. The Raleigh News & Observer got them for its imfamous "vigilante poster." If The N&O could get them, surely the DA could.

What's going on?

I know it's been an incredibly busy time for Nifong what with him first needing to try the case in the press and then feeling he needed to take time out to go to a conference. And we shouldn't forget he has to spend time on his reelection campaign.

Still, I hope tomorrow he finds a few minutes to answer these questions.

Those who've already voted for conviction may not care about the questions, but there are plenty of us who do.